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Accord with state allows roundabout art installation on Tamiami

An agreement between the city of Sarasota and FDOT will permit the installation on roundabouts at U.S. 41 at 10th and 14th streets and sets the policy for future Art in the Roundabouts projects.

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Through its Art in the Roundabouts program, the city of Sarasota is blazing a trail of sorts by placing sculpture in traffic circles large and small throughout the city.

Although three pieces already stand in roundabouts on locally maintained streets in the downtown core, the trail being blazed is Tamiami as the first highway on which the Florida Department of Transportation is partnering with a city to install public art on state right of way.

During its Oct. 3 meeting, the Sarasota City Commission adopted an agreement between the city and state that allows sculpture to be installed specifically in the roundabouts on U.S. 41 at 10th and 14th streets, a model that will be carried forward to the Fruitville Road roundabout, the nearly completed circle at Gulfstream Avenue and new roundabouts beyond.

The agreement is a long time coming. The city contracted with artists for sculpture at 10th and 14th streets in 2019, the entire process waylaid by COVID-19 and its residual impacts. Also time consuming were the intricacies of the agreement that covers myriad safety, maintenance and liability factors.

Only one final hurdle remains for one sculpture — Poly by Hou De Sousa — which awaits City Commission approval of an additional $59,000 because of cost escalation of materials. The commission will take up the matter at its meeting Monday, Nov. 7 meeting.

As part of the city’s public arts fund — paid for by a 0.5% fee on any construction project exceeding $1 million — the two pieces were approved at $150,000 for Seagrass, by Casto Solano, and $148,500 for Poly.

Seagrass will be installed at 10th Street and Poly is destined for 14th Street.

Seagrass, by Spanish sculptor Casto Solano, will be installed in the roundabout at U.S. 41 and 10th Street. (File rendering)
Seagrass, by Spanish sculptor Casto Solano, will be installed in the roundabout at U.S. 41 and 10th Street. (File rendering)

“We are blazing a trail in some ways,” said Sarasota Senior Planner Mary Davis Wallace, who also heads up the city’s public arts program. “This is a partnership that, even between two people we would even probably have to work out your role and my role in order for both of us to feel good about what we're getting ready to do. With it being between two governing agencies, one being the state, there were a lot of details to work through and they needed to be comfortable with what we were proposing.”


On a pedestal

The term of the two current roundabout agreements expires in 2045, which is determined to be the lifespan of the project, unless terminated at an earlier date as provided. Should installation not be completed within 365 days of the execution of the agreement, it may be terminated by FDOT.

Wallace doesn’t consider the latter to be an issue. Seagrass is now in progress and Poly will begin if the City Commission approves the additional funding. Both sculptures will be shipped here — Seagrass from Spain and Poly from New York — and assembled on site by each artist’s dedicated team.

Should the City Commission approve an additional $59,000 for materials cost increases since approved June 2019, Poly by New York sculptor Hou De Sousa will be installed in the roundabout at U.S. 41 and 14th Street. (File rendering
Should the City Commission approve an additional $59,000 for materials cost increases since approved June 2019, Poly by New York sculptor Hou De Sousa will be installed in the roundabout at U.S. 41 and 14th Street. (File rendering

Before then, the protective pedestals must be built by the city, concrete circular pads of a 12-inch base topped by another six inches to elevate the pieces above street level to protect both traffic and the sculptures. Global disruptions notwithstanding, Wallace said the prototype nature of roundabout art on state roads required extensive scrutiny in drafting the first-of-its-kind agreements.

“We are going to be making a real impact for state roundabouts and we want to make sure we're doing it right,” Wallace said. “FDOT did require that we present a step-like, a tiered system in order to protect the art so we have walls that have been designed and engineered to provide a stepped system that would further protect the art and the travelers. We had a consultant come in and design that for us, and that was one of the reasons why it took the time that was needed to be sure that FDOT agreed.”

As the pedestals are being built, fabricating of the sculptures will ensue, Wallace said. Barring supply chain complications, fabrication will take five to six months. Once the components arrive here, they will be assembled and installed. Wallace said the goal is to complete installation at both roundabouts by late summer to early fall of 2023.

“We're ready to move forward,” she said. “People will see this in a way of why did this take so long or why is this such an arduous process and not yielding any results; and I think what we need to consider is this is all new, and we're building a foundation for the future and we're hopefully setting an example for other cities in Florida to be able to do this.”


Traffic calming

Sarasota launched its Art in the Roundabouts program with its first installation at Main Street and Orange Avenue in 2016 followed by two others at new downtown roundabouts. The goal of the U.S. 41 roundabout sculptures is to bejewel a “necklace” of sorts of new roundabouts built, under construction or planned along Tamiami Trail through the city.

Although smaller in scale, the sculpture in the downtown roundabouts proved a successful test case for progression to larger, multi-lane traffic circles. The roundabouts along U.S. 41 are in part a product of the new urbanist Andres Duany-inspired downtown master plan, which called for significantly reducing speeds on Tamiami Trail by moving buildings closer to the road to create “enclosure," which naturally slows speeds, and installing traffic-calming features — such as roundabouts — to create a more walkable community.

Roundabouts, bump-outs, chicanes and other devices naturally reduce speeds, the philosophy posits, as do visual elements such as art. Size, scope and visibility both day and night are primary elements in selecting sculptures for roundabout applications.

"You want to be able to see it from a distance and you want to be able to approach the roundabout with some caution, and sometimes that means a healthy bit of of visibility,” Wallace said. “There is a piece of art, there are signs, people are slowing down, there’s paint on the road … there a lot of indicators, and public art actually does serve as a signal to slow down and it has been proven to reduce traffic accidents, so we hope that will be the case.”



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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